Monday, March 12, 2007
Lil Jon Has Not Left The Building
I'm not sure if there's anything new here. A rapper enjoys some success, and quickly branches out into endorsements and product placement to maximize "auxiliary income". The massive deflation of what qualifies as famous, coupled with the expansion of blanket marketing in general, makes for ubiquitous semi-celebrities hawking everything from perfume to video games to ring tones (a $5 billion market).
Still, it seems like a leap to claim, as does Lil Jon the King of Crunk (wtf?), that, "Once you get popular, you have a brand... You have to market that brand." Not that there wouldn't be something ironic about contemporary rap artists actually becoming brands, given how much the music's early iconography owed to brand consciousness. I'm just not so sure how much that's actually happening.
Certainly in rap as in basketball, the balance of power has shifted between the star and the product manufacturer. Whereas before Adidas or Nike or Converse had a lineup of NBA stars who got a shoe designed and named after them, now certain players or rappers have a lineup of products that represent different facets of their salable image.
But the difference between a brand and a fad, or even a brand and a businessman, is kind of like the famous Potter Stewart definition of pornography: I know it when I see it. Shaq is a brand. 'Melo? Please. Sean Coombs? Arguable, but I'll give it to you. Jay-Z? Sorry.
But it still begs the question, What's new here? Long before there was MTV Cribs, people were lining up to tour Graceland. Twenty years after his death, Elvis the King of Rock 'n Roll is still a brand. Lil Jon the King of Crunk? Nah, I don't think so.